View Full Version : How did you settle on your favorite uke size?

05-01-2011, 08:22 AM
It seems most folks have a "go to" uke size. I am only six months into this journey and I find myself liking the concert size best. I really like my tenor Mainland that I bought a few weeks ago, but it seems a bit more difficult for me to play than my concert EleUke. I think a concert size would have been a better choice, but you don't know that till you have tried it I suppose. My kids both have sopranos and I find them the most difficult size for me to play. Without trying different sizes, I suppose it would be hard to know this. Maybe as my talent grows, I'll use different sizes for different songs.

I know some folks choose a size and stick with it. Others like to play different sizes based on mood or song. How did you choose your favorite size?

05-01-2011, 08:37 AM
I didn't really consciously choose, I tried all three common sizes, and the concert neck just "felt" right.

And since I prefer the sound of sopranos, my favorite size ends up being long-neck sopranos.

05-01-2011, 08:46 AM
It's a scale and a string tension question:

I prefer my soprano for strumming,
my tenor scale (superconcert) for solos,
and my concert for picking....

In this way, I use all the sizes!

If I have to choose just one, I prefer the "hibrid" concert.

05-01-2011, 09:30 AM
Great topic! I hope to read lots of replies...

My first ukulele, a soprano, was a Christmas gift. I loved both its size (for playing and portability) and its sound (it was a really deep old Camp Uke). Unfortunately, the light cracks in the uke opened up beyond repair after a couple falls. (I overestimated its portability.)

While looking for a new uke, it quickly became apparent that concerts and tenors aren't for me. The 13" (or so) scale just feels right to me, any longer and it seems I should reach for my guitar rather than my uke. When I go to a music store, I always play every soprano available (welp, not every $40 soprano available). Lately, I've been trying to expand my ukulele horizons by strumming a concert or a tenor for a few minutes as well. But it's always the best-sounding soprano in the shop that occupies my attention. Speaking of which, there's a Martin O at my local shop I should visit before I get to work...

05-01-2011, 09:46 AM
For me, it's baritones all the way. Partially because of the size of my hands but also because I feel like I have the most control with jazz and swing chords which is what we perform.

05-01-2011, 11:03 AM
I first bought a soprano and loved the sound. got a concert and really fell in love. Bought a tenor and really do not care for the size. Kind of find myself leaning back to the soprano because I mainly strum from first and second position chords. anything past the eighth fret for me is fluff right now. I hope to get better and actually use the whole neck someday but until then we'll see. Just ordered a "SAILOR" soprano with 14 frets to the body. May possibly have the perfect uke for me soon!

05-01-2011, 11:05 AM
For me, it's baritones all the way. Partially because of the size of my hands but also because I feel like I have the most control with jazz and swing chords which is what we perform.

Your baritone uke has a great sound!
jazz is very difficult for me...

05-01-2011, 11:29 AM
Hands are too big to play an e chord on a soprano or concert and a baritone isn't a real uke imo.

05-01-2011, 11:38 AM
At first I thought I would like sopranos because I'm a small person with little hands. But the minute I played my first concert size uke, I knew I had found my favorite - the scale is very comfortable and I really like the string tension. I also like how concert ukes sound fuller than sopranos do when played higher up the neck.

05-01-2011, 11:45 AM
The sopranos softer string tension makes it easier for me as a beginner. My tenor is a little more work to play. But I am sure that will change as my fingers get stronger.

05-01-2011, 11:50 AM
Owned a soprano for nearly 60 yrs before I got serious. First bought a concert, then received a tenor for a gift. At first I thought I liked the concert best, then, the more time I spent on my Martin soprano, the more I liked it. Concert is my second favorite, then tenor, but I enjoy them all and find a little practice enables me to tranition between the sizes. I just bought two used ukes. a Mele soprano and a Pono Concert. If I ever get a super high-end uke, it will probably be an amazing sounding long neck soprano..... at least until I change my mind. good luck and have fun. Play lots of ukes. Now you know how we develop UAS.

05-01-2011, 12:39 PM
I started out on a concert because I felt a soprano would be pretty cramped for my hands (not the most limber fingers in the world any more). Then, I got my granddaughter a soprano and discovered that I was right, it was a little cramped for playing anything but first position open chords. But, I also discovered I really liked the sound of a soprano better for strumming even though her soprano was a cheap lanikai and my concert was a KoAloha. So, I bought a Kiwaya longneck soprano figuring that a concert neck on a soprano body would be my ideal strumming uke. That turned out to be correct.

I also picked up a couple of tenors along the way, but my longneck soprano is my "go to."


mm stan
05-01-2011, 04:21 PM
Like you said, best is to go in a music store and try all them side to side for comparison on playability, comfort and sound..good luck Happy Strummimgs..in the long run I am sure you
will learn to play all of them too.. 6 months is nothing man..ha ha...I say practice, patience, and perserverence...=passion....

05-01-2011, 05:04 PM
My first uke was a tenor I won in a drawing so I didn't really have a choice in size. But coming from a background as a classical guitarist, I didn't feel a need to go smaller. I'm up to five tenors (well, once #5 finally arrives) and have yet to play a smaller size. Guess I'll be a tenor player for life. :p

05-01-2011, 05:09 PM
I started out with a cheap lanakai tenor (you all know the model). Not a bad uke but seeing all those sopranos online I thought that's what I should have. As it happens friends at work got me Lanakai soprano (the inexpensive kind, but a nice gift all the same). Intonation was off a bit and it did have a small fretboard. I ended up buying a Martin SO that was hanging in a store for a long time. Liked the wider fingerboard. Then I realized it really was hard to play up the neck cleanly. So, I thought a Concert would be the ticket. Bought one, but the neck was a bit narrow, then bought another with a wider neck. Felt I had my go to uke. Then started playing live, standing up and found it was a bit hard to negotiate some chords. Ended up back at square one with a new Tenor (I had sold the Lani Tenor long ago), and realized that this is what I've really liked all along...It's now a main one and a keeper....(I think...)

However, I do like to play all the sizes at various times, the variety is nice.

05-01-2011, 05:32 PM
I have decided to take the easy route and just buy one in every size.

05-01-2011, 05:40 PM
I have decided to take the easy route and just buy one in every size.

This! Except now I'm getting into multiples of each size.

mr moonlight
05-01-2011, 05:41 PM
I have decided to take the easy route and just buy one in every size.
That's sort of what I ended up doing. I have one in every size although I prefer my Tenor. Mainly because I've played guitar for so many years and having more space between the frets feels more natural.

05-01-2011, 06:16 PM
and a baritone isn't a real uke imo.

Ouch, man. That hurts. Lot of us Bari players around here...

05-01-2011, 06:29 PM
Soprano all the way. I keep trying the Concert but always go back to the Soprano

05-01-2011, 06:52 PM
I started with a tenor then went down a size to concert. I thought I would try the next size smaller just to see what it was like. So, I bought a little makai from Mim. I tuned it and strummed a few chords and it just made me smile. I smiled and laughed for several hours. It just sounds like a ukulele to me. I have been a soprano player ever since. My favorite is the vita uke, it has a soprano scale but is far from quiet.

05-01-2011, 06:54 PM
Feel, ability to play complicated fretting positions, string tension, and the need for volume and sustain. For me, that narrowed it down to the tenor and baritone.

05-01-2011, 07:31 PM
I tried all the sizes. Soprano stuck!

05-01-2011, 08:20 PM
I came from playing a guitar, so a tenor size is more comfortable for me. As the uke gets smaller, it's more of an adjustment for me. I do have a soprano size that I very much like the sound of, but I find myself playing the tenors more. This past week, all I have played is a tenor. When I travel I plan to take one of my smaller ukes. My favorite size guitar is a parlor. It has been a long time since I've picked up a dreadnaught.

05-01-2011, 10:37 PM
A Soprano has more volume and room on the fret board, but isn't as expensive as a Tenor. I'd say a Concert is probably best for strumming and doing "bright" strummed music, a tenor for single-string playing and more "serious" music.

I wonder if George Formby's banjoleles had Soprano or Concert length necks?

Hippie Dribble
05-01-2011, 10:45 PM
I just prefer the bright, crisp tone of the sopranos, so I play them most of the time. I tend to use concerts sometimes for picking type tunes and minor key songs, for that extra richness, warmth and sustain.

05-01-2011, 11:03 PM
Soprano for me!
Most probably because I'm better at playing a variation of tunes on it, and I have strangely small hands for a chap.
I use to play Mandolin, so when moving over to uke, soprano seemed the sensible choice!

I like 'em all though. They're a bit like Pokemon. Gotta catch them all!!

05-01-2011, 11:18 PM
I started out last fall with a cheap, used baritone, because all I wanted to do was accompany other uke players. Then I discovered that all the folks I was playing with were playing baris, too! I was having a hard time getting my aging fingers all over that neck to make chords.
One day we were in Sam Ash picking up some stuff for my GF's bass guitar, and I saw the ukuleles. I just started trying each one, and this little concert ukulele just sang to me. And it fit my hands perfectly, so I fetched my debit card out of my purse...

05-02-2011, 07:33 AM
I wonder if George Formby's banjoleles had Soprano or Concert length necks?
I was watching several vids of him on YouTube last night. The banjolele he usually used looked like a soprano neck to me. He also played a traditional uke in a couple of htem but it looked a little strange - looked like a soprano, or MAYBE concert, neck on a body somewhere near tenor size. Kind of an odd looking thing.

05-02-2011, 11:41 AM
Yeah concert just feels right to me, although I have nothing against a soprano. A superconcert is all the tenor I'll ever need.

05-02-2011, 11:53 AM
I'm not sure I have yet! I play concert and tenor and I play different stuff according to the ukes I play.

I think in my heart :o I'd like to play a concert all the time because i love the sound, but I'm such a clumsy oaf, I need the space of a tenor fretboard (and super concerts are just weird)

BadLands Bart
05-02-2011, 01:39 PM
For me it's the Concert size that I like the best.

05-02-2011, 03:39 PM
My hands tend to cramp up when playing soprano, so that size is out (Although my Harmony is a Soprano, my Stella Banjo Uke is a soprano, and the Firefly is a slightly bigger soprano), My two concert sizes (Republic and Epi Les Paul) both need a hell of a lot better setup that I can give them, so I'm not really playing a lot of concert size. The Fluke, Kala,and Cordoba are tenor - mostly because the Fluke and Cordoba just felt good while playing. I bought the Kala without trying it, but it was from MGM, so it was first rate. All three tenors have a great feel to them, and are very comfortable, so Tenor is, by default, my favorite size.

On the other hand, I played a 1920s era Martin soprano that sounded superb, and my hand didn't' cramp up while playing - if I'd run into that one first, I probably would have stayed with soprano.


05-03-2011, 04:40 AM
You don't really have to settle.
I sure didn't.

I have ukes of all the main sizes, Sopranos, Concerts, Tenors and Baritone.
I use them all :)

05-03-2011, 05:04 AM
Concert is probably favorite size but I love the soprano sound and tend to play them the most.

05-03-2011, 05:39 AM
Sorry to restate the above thread, but Concert is also my favorite size (for both playing comfort and sound reasons) and I too love the sound of Soprano ukes.

Maybe it’s not viable for some, but I am generally willing to trade some comfort for the right sound. Of course, if the instrument feels too cramped, the fretboard isn’t right or the action is ridiculously high, then comfort wins out; but when you must have either tonal color and sweetness or that plunky-plunk twang, I’ll go with whatever sounds best.

05-03-2011, 06:00 AM
Of the standard sizes, I like concerts the best because it is the easiest for me to play. However my favorite scale length is really a 16" scale, 1" longer than the typical concert scale. It feels more or less like a concert but the high frets (past 12) are just a little less cramped and that makes a nice difference for me.

Ukulele Etc.
05-03-2011, 06:10 AM
I think the tenor provides more space for fingers make chords easier to play

05-03-2011, 06:14 AM
When we first started playing, my husband and I bought and played lots of ukuleles to figure out what we liked. After much experimenting, I ended up sticking with concerts and my husband plays tenors.

Uncle Rod Higuchi
05-03-2011, 09:10 AM
Back in 1960, 6th grade, I began learning to play the ukulele using a soprano.

I brought a Kamaka soprano with me to college.

I bought a Martin tenor toward the end of college and also began playing a baritone.

Since then, after joining SUPA and having tuned my tenor to GCEA (too much tension for me),
I went back to the soprano, tried a few concerts, but basically play the soprano.

It's the portability (small form factor) and low string tension as well as the fact that I'm
a strummer, not a picker, that has probably led to my soprano choice. That and it's a more
traditional size.

There's probably no 'right' size in general, however, there may be a 'right' size for each of us.

I'm glad we have so many sizes, makes and models to choose from today!

Thanks luthiers.

Keep uke'in',

05-04-2011, 05:46 AM
I started with a tenor and played that for a while and then got a concert. The concert really seems so much easier to play for me. Less tension, smaller distances for left hand work, easier to hold while standing. Then I purchased another Mya-Moe black strip tenor that is a spectacular instrument but I keep going back to the concert becasue of the ease of play. I am now rarely playing the tenor and am considering selling the blackstripe to get another Mya-Moe concert.

05-04-2011, 02:47 PM
I like concerts. They're still bright and happy like sopranos but with a little fuller sound. I like sopranos too

05-04-2011, 03:45 PM
Atm it's my 20s Martin Sop. Don't have. Lotta miles under my belt yet, the jury is somewhat out.

05-04-2011, 10:41 PM
I got a tenor fluke because the Magic Fluke website said they could take dGBE tuning as well as GCEA or gCEA. I haven't gotten around to trying all three but I like having options and I like the slightly bigger size of the tenor.

05-05-2011, 01:49 AM
I started with tenor after I spoke with MGM. Coming from a guitar background, it seemed like a good place to begin. I added concert and soprano not long after, but didn't like either as much. I have recently added baritone to my collection and find that, for many songs, it is better tonally. It does restrict my playing a tiny bit because I don't have the finger reach as I have on tenor. But that will improve with practice. I still like tenor most, however, but bari is stealing my heart...

05-05-2011, 03:29 AM
personnally, i've sticked on the soprano during 3 years without even thinking of changing.

one day I got stucked at the bottom of the fretboard on a solo line and thought ''it's time to get bigger''... went for a concert few days later :)

but i'm still not convinced by the concert size concept, which looks like being ''right in the middle, perfect compromise''... got some of soprano and tenor's advantages, some of the pains too... but nothing really fully...

I like contrasts... so I think i'd now go for 1 soprano-fear-nothing, for hicking hollidays, campfire, strumming and singing arround in the woods... and a nice tenor to work on some more serious jazz lines at home or to bring in jams.

05-06-2011, 05:54 PM
As a noob I first bought a tenor because I thought that my short fat fingers wouldn't work on a concert. Didn't think about chords like E, B, Bflat and how difficult they'd be on a larger instrument. So then I went to buy a concert (Ko'olau K series) but fell in love with a aNue Nue 1879 and got a great deal so I bought both ukes (good thing I have a second mortgage credit line) and am finding that I like them both size wise. Concert is easier to finger tighter chords like D but the soprano is easier for chords that require a stretch like E, B etc. Sopranos seem to have a different sound but there's so much within size variation based on wood etc. that it's difficult to generalize. Anyway, my Big Island tenor is for sale on Craig's list in Athens GA if anyone is interested <g>

05-07-2011, 07:50 PM
Hi all,
Yep, this a really good topic.
I started with a cheapie Mahalo soprano $25, had to change the tuners, put on enclosed micro guitar units from my local store.
Then I got brave and checked ebay, found a solid walnut tenor from Vietnam and got it for under $60, also had to replace the tuners, but
used Grover open geared ones from StewMac and finally put new low G Aquila Nylgut strings on it.

Sounds sooo mellow.
After all that, my choice is a low G strung tenor. I enjoy riding my motorcycle and with shoulder straps, the tenor size is perfect.

05-07-2011, 09:35 PM
I don't get the size debate really. I play all sizes, and mostly every day. I bought five stands so I could have them all there and play whichever I am inspired by whenever, and that changes daily.